Spirits Break to Freedom

Sundays, October 21st and November 4th
Spirits Break to Freedom
A work-in-progress theatrical performance Featuring dancer/choreographer Germaine Ingram, composer/musician Bobby Zankel, and visual artist John Dowell. Panel discussions will follow stage performances on each date.

FREE- registration online is required

CLICK HERE to register for Sunday, October 21st
CLICK HERE to register for Sunday, November 4th

Concessions on Sunday, October 21st will be provided by Bouchées by Janée.

Zan began pondering race when he was younger only because he began pondering his country, and knew that it wasn’t possible to understand his country without pondering slavery and it wasn’t possible to understand slavery without pondering race.  He considered how his countrymen from Africa were the only ones who didn’t choose to be there; Africans were compelled to come and only once they were made to come did they choose to stay.  Did that make them, then, the true owners of the country’s great idea, by virtue of having accepted the country in the face of so many reasons not to?  If the country is more an idea than a place then are those who were so compelled its true occupants, given how the country’s promise to them was broken before it was offered?
–Erickson, Steve, These Dreams of You (New York: Europa, 2012)

Sunday, October 21
Panel discussion topic: Contemporary political rhetoric and the history of American slavery

  • John L. Jackson, Jr., Richard Perry University Professor of Communication and Anthropology, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
  • Randall M. Miller,  Professor of History at Saint Joseph’s University and member of the Oversight Committee for the President’s House planning and design
  • Michelle Flamer, Esq., Attorney for the City of Philadelphia and fiber artist and curator of “The President’s House: Their Untold Stories in Quilts” Exhibit at the Constitution Center, African American Museum, and Independence National History Park Visitor Center, June-September 2012
  • Marc Howard Ross, William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Bryn Mawr College, Chair

This panel will focus on the contemporary implications of the terms “slave” and “slavery”, and other language associated with enslavement, and their use and meaning in contemporary political rhetoric—from labor disputes to debates over tax and economic policy, to characterizations of homosexuality.  We are interested in exploring what this might mean for how America’s experience with slavery is understood and remembered; whether it enhances or muddles understanding of the wrong that was perpetrated and suffered; and how descendants of enslaved people feel about these appropriations of the terms. Finally, the panel will be asked to reflect on what is remembered and what is forgotten about slavery in the US and elsewhere and its implications for contemporary political relations.


Sunday, November 4
Panel discussion topic: Facing Trauma and Healing: The Experience of Rwanda

  • Lily Yeh, Founder, Barefoot Artists, Philadelphia
  • Kristin Doughty, Department of Anthropology, University of Rochester
  • Marc Howard Ross, William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Bryn Mawr College, Chair

Both Yeh and Doughty have spent years working in Rwanda, and thinking about how this society has and might continue to address the grief of the horrendous events of 1994 and how Rwandans can rebuild their lives and establish hope for life in the future. They will consider how the use of artistic expressions, story-telling, and transitional justice can all contribute to recovery from trauma, and will provide some poignant examples from their own experiences in Rwanda. Finally, both the panel and audience will be encouraged to reflect on the relevance of these strategies to address the still highly charge question of the legacy of slavery in the US today.


*This event is FREE but you must register in advance

These programs are possible through support from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the Solomon Asch Center for Ethnopolitical Research. The artists also acknowledge generous support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, through Dance Advance, the Pew Fellowships, and the Philadelphia Music Project, for research and development of the work presented in these events.